While researchers get closer to uncovering cellular mechanisms important to anti-aging therapies, leading nutritionists continue to update the list of foods studied to contribute to long healthy lifespans.
Longevity research differs from other dietary studies because the data set is much more consistent. The more consistent the data, the less susceptible it is to rotating trends.
“When it comes to research on any topic, there are always going to be different schools of thought,” registered dietitian and founder of The Wellnecessities, Lisa Hayim told Ladders during our chat about nutritional resources. “But the interesting thing about longevity research is that we’re working with an outlier population. Those who live to be 100 are a small population so it may be easier to extract variables that overlap. It seems some factors are a result of genes. When it comes to things we can do, some big factors include not smoking, eating lots of vegetables, and daily movement.”
Nearly six months into what many experts are calling the most destructive health crisis of modern history, Ladders found Hayim’s expertise to be particularly relevant.
“I get to spend my days doing what I love — helping people live their most FULL lives,” Hayim says of her role as a nutrition expert. “Human stuff is hard – and in my opinion, one of the ways our brains protect us from painful truths is shifting the focus on things we think we can control – like diet, food, and body image.
“Our hyper-focus on these things hold us back from living fully — you cannot count calories and obsess over your weight while also living your richest most meaningful life. “
Mustering the commitment to maintain a healthy lifestyle takes work–especially now, but the rubric is pretty clear.
Food groups with the biggest impact on health
In Hayim’s estimation, the food groups that have the biggest impact on lifespan and overall health are as follows:
“Omega 3 fatty acids- these foods fight inflammation and inflammatory pathways. They’re incredibly important for brain health and mood. Good sources include salmon and other fatty fish, flaxseed, walnuts, chia seeds, and avocado,” Hayim continued. “Beans and legumes: High in fiber and prebiotic starches which feed the gut. They release short-chain fatty acids which help to create a healthy microbiome (gut). Think about black beans, chickpeas, and lentils. Green leafy veg: Loaded with antioxidants, phytochemicals, and nutrients that fight to protect all corners of the body. Think about Kale, mustard greens, collard greens, arugula, etc.”
The rise in diets similar to the Flexitarian might belie the impression that drafting a healthy dietary routine requires intricate metrics.
While it’s true that certain diets will benefit some better than others, there are core principles that should be acknowledged across all regimens.
“The basics for all humans stand the same. More plants- but that doesn’t mean you need to be a vegan! I’m a strong believer that the body is the best guide of what it needs, and when left to its own devices, it will gravitate towards nature’s untouched food,” Hayim explained.
“More water– Hydration is critical and yet so many people struggle in this department. From digestion to headaches, drinking enough water consistently is so important to support your body’s systems. Gut Support- The gut controls so much of our health, and yet we neglect taking care of it. The gut requires lots of love in the form of pre and probiotics. One of my favorite ways to cover this base is to choose a probiotic supplement. The one I recommend is from New Chapter, the All Flora which includes a prebiotic and probiotic. However, all of their products are fermented, making them all naturally probiotic.”
Of course, longevity is about more than just food groups. For Hayim, the psychological elements of continuance are just as important as the others.
In a recent paper published in the Journal, Hypertension. it was revealed that years of work-induced stress dramatically increases disease instance nationwide.
It was similarly determined in independently conducted research that COVID-19 is causing surges in depression and suicide rates.
Sadly, the countermeasures premised by these disorders often go under-reported. Hayim identifies stress management, sleep, and movements as the most influential components on this front.
“Stress management doesn’t have to look like meditation or squeezing a stress ball at your desk,” Hayim continued in her chat. “It has to do with building in stress-free activities into our usually crammed with work lifestyle. Think about community events, doing things for pure joy, or simply putting your cell-phone down for periods of time.
Sleep isn’t just where we go to rest and lay there. During sleep, a pivotal role in removing metabolic waste products from the central nervous system happens. Prioritizing sleep means having good “sleep hygiene.” Some things you can do: no phones in bed, be mindful of fluid intake in the hours surrounding bedtime, and be aware of how alcohol affects QUALITY of sleep.
Movement. Exercise is prescriptive, but movement is natural. We as humans were meant to move to protect our joints, bones, and muscles. Rather than a boot camp, think about things that can be joyfully added to your life that you WANT to do every single day. “
Conversely, it’s important for populations that are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 to steer clear of substances known to destabilize our auto-immune response.
“The diet’s job is to play goalie and defense to pathogens and invaders,” Hayim concludes. “Caffeine and alcohol are two of the biggest culprits of the COVID 19 pandemic for those at home struggling to adjust to this new life.”